Moving Up to the Cloud, a panel lecture hosted by the VCU Libraries

“Sky symphony” by Kevin Dooley

“Educational Utility Computing: Perspectives on .edu and the Cloud”
Mark Ryland, Chief Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services

AWS has been a part of revolutionizing the start-up industries (i.e. Instagram, Pinterest) because they don’t have the cost of building server infrastructures in-house. Cloud computing in the AWS sense is utility computing — pay for what you use, easy to scale up and down, and local control of how your products work. In the traditional world, you have to pay for the capacity to meet your peak demand, but in the cloud computing world, you can level up and down based on what is needed at that moment.

Economies, efficiencies of scale in many ways. Some obvious: storage, computing, and networking equipment supply change; internet connectivity and electric power; and data center sitting, redundancy, etc. Less obvious: security and compliance best practices; datacenter internal innovations in networking, power, etc.

AWS and .EDU: EdX, Coursera, Texas Digital Library, Berkeley AMP Lab, Harvard Medical, University of Phoenix, and an increasing number of university/school public-facing websites.

Expects that we are heading toward cloud computing utilities to function much like the electric grid — just plug in and use it.


“Libraries in Transition”
Marshall Breeding, library systems expert

We’ve already seen the shift of print to electronic in academic journals, and we’re heading that way with books. Our users are changing in the way they expect interactions with libraries to be, and the library as space is evolving to meet that, along with library systems.

Web-based computing is better than client/server computing. We expect social computing to be integrated into the core infrastructure of a service, rather than add-ons and afterthoughts. Systems need to be flexible for all kinds of devices, not just particular types of desktops. Metadata needs to evolve from record-by-record creation to bulk management wherever possible. MARC is going to die, and die soon.

How are we going to help our researchers manage data? We need the infrastructure to help us with that as well. Semantic web — what systems will support it?

Cooperation and consolidation of library consortia; state-wide implementations of SaaS library systems. Our current legacy ILS are holding libraries back from being able to move forward and provide the services our users want and need.

A true cloud computing system comes with web-based interfaces, externally hosted, subscription OR utility pricing, highly abstracted computing model, provisioned on demand, scaled according to variable needs, elastic.


“Moving Up to the Cloud”
Mark Triest, President of Ex Libris North America

Currently, libraries are working with several different systems (ILS, ERMS, DRs, etc.), duplicating data and workflows, and not always very accurately or efficiently, but it was the only solution for handling different kinds of data and needs. Ex Libris started in 2007 to change this, beginning with conversations with librarians. Their solution is a single system with unified data and workflows.

They are working to lower the total cost of ownership by reducing IT needs, minimize administration time, and add new services to increase productivity. Right now there are 120+ institutions world-wide who are in the process of or have gone live with Alma.

Automated workflows allow staff to focus on the exceptions and reduce the steps involved.

Descriptive analytics are built into the system, with plans for predictive analytics to be incorporated in the future.

Future: collaborative collection development tools, like joint licensing and consortial ebook programs; infrastructure for ad-hoc collaboration


“Cloud Computing and Academic Libraries: Promise and Risk”
John Ulmschneider, Dean of Libraries at VCU

When they first looked at Alma, they had two motivations and two concerns. They were not planning or thinking about it until they were approached to join the early adopters. All academic libraries today are seeking to discover and exploit new efficiencies. The growth of cloud-resident systems and data requires academic libraries to reinvigorate their focus on core mission. Cloud-resident systems are creating massive change throughout out institutions. Managing and exploiting pervasive change is a serious challenge. Also, we need to deal with security and durability of data.

Cloud solutions shift resources from supporting infrastructure to supporting innovation.

Efficiencies are not just nice things, they are absolutely necessary for academic libraries. We are obligated to upend long-held practice, if in doing so we gain assets for practice essential to our mission. We must focus recovered assets on the core library mission.

Agility is the new stability.

Libraries must push technology forward in areas that advance their core mission. Infuse technology evolution for libraries with the values needs of libraries. Libraries must invest assets as developers, development partners, and early adopters. Insist on discovery and management tools that are agnostic regarding data sources.

Managing the change process is daunting.. but we’re already well down the road. It’s not entirely new, but it does involve a change in culture to create a pervasive institutional agility for all staff.

NASIG 2012: Managing E-Publishing — Perfect Harmony for Serialists

Presenters: Char Simser (Kansas State University) & Wendy Robertson (University of Iowa)

Iowa looks at e-publishing as an extension of the central mission of the library. This covers not only text, but also multimedia content. After many years of ad-hoc work, they formed a department to be more comprehensive and intentional.

Kansas really didn’t do much with this until they had a strategic plan that included establishing an open access press (New Prairie). This also involved reorganizing personnel to create a new department to manage the process, which includes the institutional depository. The press includes not only their own publications, but also hosts publications from a few other sources.

Iowa went with BEPress’ Digital Commons to provide both the repository and the journal hosting. Part of why they went this route for their journals was because they already had it for their repository, and they approach it more as being a hosting platform than as being a press/publisher. This means they did not need to add staff to support it, although they did add responsibilities to exiting staff in addition to their other work.

Kansas is using Open Journal Systems hosted on a commercial server due to internal politics that prevented it from being hosted on the university server. All of their publications are Gold OA, and the university/library is paying all of the costs (~$1700/year, not including the .6 FTE staff hours).

Day in the life of New Prairie Press — most of the routine stuff at Kansas involves processing DOI information for articles and works-cited, and working with DOAJ for article metadata. The rest is less routine, usually involving journal setups, training, consultation, meetings, documentation, troubleshooting, etc.

The admin back-end of OJS allows Char to view it as if she is different types of users (editor, author, etc.) to be able to trouble-shoot issues for users. Rather than maintaining a test site, they have a “hidden” journal on the live site that they use to test functions.

A big part of her daily work is submitting DOIs to CrossRef and going through the backfile of previously published content to identify and add DOIs to the works-cited. The process is very manual, and the error rate is high enough that automation would be challenging.

Iowa does have some subscription-based titles, so part of the management involves keeping up with a subscriber list and IP addresses. All of the titles eventually fall into open access.

Most of the work at Iowa has been with retrospective content — taking past print publications and digitizing them. They are also concerned with making sure the content follows current standards that are used by both library systems and Google Scholar.

There is more. I couldn’t take notes and keep time towards the end.

ER&L 2010: ERMS Success – Harvard’s experience implementing and using an ERM system

Speaker: Abigail Bordeaux

Harvard has over 70 libraries and they are very decentralized. This implementation is for the central office that provides the library systems services for all of the libraries. Ex Libris is their primary vendor for library systems, include the ERMS, Verde. They try to go with vended products and only develop in-house solutions if nothing else is available.

Success was defined as migrating data from old system to new, to improve workflows with improved efficiency, more transparency for users, and working around any problems they encountered. They did not expect to have an ideal system – there were bugs with both the system and their local data. There is no magic bullet. They identified the high-priority areas and worked towards their goals.

Phase I involved a lot of project planning with clearly defined goals/tasks and assessment of the results. The team included the primary users of the system, the project manager (Bordeaux), and a programmer. A key part of planning includes scoping the project (Bordeaux provided a handout of the questions they considered in this process). They had a very detailed project plan using Microsoft Project, and at the very least, the listing out of the details made the interdependencies more clear.

The next stage of the project involved data review and clean-up. Bordeaux thinks that data clean-up is essential for any ERM implementation or migration. They also had to think about the ways the old ERM was used and if that is desirable for the new system.

The local system they created was very close to the DLF recommended fields, but even so, they still had several failed attempts to map the fields between the two systems. As a result, they had a cycle of extracting a small set of records, loading them into Verde, reviewing the data, and then delete the test records out of Verde. They did this several times with small data sets (10 or so), and when they were comfortable with that, they increased the number of records.

They also did a lot of manual data entry. They were able to transfer a lot, but they couldn’t do everything. And some bits of data were not migrated because of the work involved compared to the value of it. In some cases, though, they did want to keep the data, so they entered it manually. Part of what they did to visualize the mapping process, they created screenshots with notes that showed the field connections.

Prior to this project, they were not using Aleph to manage acquisitions. So, they created order records for the resources they wanted to track. The acquisitions workflow had to be reorganized from the ground up. Oddly enough, by having everything paid out of one system, the individual libraries have much more flexibility in spending and reporting. However, it took some public relations work to get the libraries to see the benefits.

As a result of looking at the data in this project, they got a better idea of gaps and other projects regarding their resources.

Phase two began this past fall to begin incorporating the data from the libraries that did not participate in phase one. They now have a small group with folks representing the libraries. This group is coming up with best practices for license agreements and entering data into the fields.

NASIG 2008: Next Generation Library Automation – Its Impact on the Serials Community

Speaker: Marshall Breeding

Check & update your library’s record on lib-web-cats — Breeding uses this data to track the ILS and ERMS systems used by libraries world-wide.

The automation industry is consolidating, with several library products dropped or ceased to be supported. External financial investors are increasingly controlling the direction of the industry. And, the OPAC sucks. Libraries and users are continually frustrated with the products they are forced to use and are turning to open source solutions.

The innovation presented by automation companies falls below the expectations of libraries (not so sure about users). Conventional ILS need to be updated to incorporate the modern blend of digital and print collections.

We need to be more thoughtful in our incorporation of social tools into traditional library systems and infrastructures. Integrate those Web 2.0 tools into existing delivery options. The next NextGen automation tools should have collaborative features built into them.

Open source software isn’t free — it’s just a different model (pay for maintenance and setup v. pay for software). We need more robust open source software for libraries. Alternatively, systems need to open up so that data can be moved in and out easily. Systems need APIs that allow local coders to enhance systems to meet the needs of local users. Open source ERMS knowledge bases haven’t been seriously developed, although there is a need.

The drive towards open source solutions has often been motivated by disillusionment with current vendors. However, we need to be cautious, since open source isn’t necessarily the golden key that will unlock the door to paradise. (i.e. Koha still needs to add serials and acquisitions modules, as well as EDI capabilities).

The open source movement motivates the vendors to make their systems more open for us. This is a good thing. In the end, we’ll have a better set of options.

Open Source ILS options: Koha (commercial support from LibLime) used mostly by small to medium libraries, Evergreen (commercial support from Equinox Software) tested and proven for small to medium libraries in a consortia setting, and OPALS (commercial support from Media Flex) used mostly by k-12 schools.

In making the case for open source ILS, you need to compare the total cost of ownership, the features and functionality, and the technology platform and conceptual models. Are they next-generation systems or open source versions of legacy models?

Evaluate your RFPs for new systems. Are you asking for the things you really need or are you stuck in a rut of requiring technology that was developed in the 70s and may no longer be relevant?

Current open source ILS products lack serials and acquisitions modules. The initial wave of open source ILS commitments happened in the public library arena, but the recent activity has been in academic libraries (WALDO consortia going from Voyager to Koha, University of Prince Edward Island going from Unicorn to Evergreen in about a month). Do the current open source ILS products provide a new model of automation, or an open source version of what we already have?

Looking forward to the day when there is a standard XML for all ILS that will allow libraries to manipulated their data in any way they need to.

We are working towards a new model of library automation where monolithic legacy architectures are replaced by the fabric of service oriented architecture applications with comprehensive management.

The traditional ILS is diminishing in importance in libraries. Electronic content management is being done outside of core ILS functions. Library systems are becoming less integrated because the traditional ILS isn’t keeping up with our needs, so we find work-around products. Non-integrated automation is not sustainable.

ERMS — isn’t this what the acquisitions module is supposed to do? Instead of enhancing that to incorporate the needs of electronic resources, we had to get another module or work-around that may or may not be integrated with the rest of the ILS.

We are moving beyond metadata searching to searching the actual items themselves. Users want to be able to search across all products and packages. NextGen federated searching will harvest and index subscribed content so that it can be searched and retrieved more quickly and seamlessly.

Opportunities for serials specialists:

  • Be aware of the current trends
  • Be prepared for accelerated change cycles
  • Help build systems based on modern business process automation principles. What is your ideal serials system?
  • Provide input
  • Ensure that new systems provide better support than legacy systems
  • Help drive current vendors towards open systems

How will we deliver serials content through discovery layers?

Reference:

  • “It’s Time to Break the Mold of the Original ILS,” Computers in Libraries, Nov/Dec 2007.